Entrepreneur and real estate dilettante Howard Brunner, nightlife impresario KC Macias and celebrated chef Darryl Harmon have teamed up to open Beat Street, a 100-seat restaurant, bar, lounge and performance space located inside Transmission, a nightlife brand located in the historic A&P warehouse at the intersection of Bay & Provost Streets in the revitalized Powerhouse Arts District (PAD) of Jersey City. Brunner is the visionary Aussie ex-pat who originally built Transmission two years ago in the sprawling 5,000 square foot space. He tapped Macias and Harmon to transform it into what he calls “an incredible multi-sensory experience — a gathering spot for locals where they can dine on delicious food and enjoy a variety of different genres of live music in a visually stimulating and welcoming environment.”
About the Name
Beat Street is an homage to the 1984 classic hip-hop movie by the same name. The film celebrated three aspects of life during the mid-1980s: breakdancing, DJ’ing and graffiti. You’ll find snippets of all three art forms interwoven into the décor, ambiance and menu. “We came up with that name because we’re authentically from that era,” explained Macias. “We thought, wouldn’t it be cool to showcase top local street artists, street food and street music, but with a modern twist, and make it uniquely our own?” The triumvirate has done so through the décor, the culinary creativity and the music. “Really, the place defies all labels because, as our guests will see, it’s a juxtaposition of gritty street life with high-end touches that truly makes it a distinctive experience,” noted Brunner.
The Décor & Design
Art plays an integral role at Beat Street. Macias handpicked Ivan Orama, a well-known New York City-based artist heralded for his portfolio of street art, canvas pieces, handmade furniture and murals, to recreate the feel of the 80s inside the restaurant. Orama used the walls to create a graffiti-inspired black & white retro mural — the backdrop for the action in the dining area. He has also constructed a Wu-Tang clan table, a replica of an old-school cassette tape that serves as a table. Orama’s work has been incorporated into designs by Adidas, Def Jam Records, the Hudson Hotel, WIP NYC Nightclub, GQ magazine and for filmmaker Spike Lee. Orama recently designed the NYC studio of Grammy-award winning music producer Swizz Beatz. “I’ll be incorporating images from that era — breakdancers, boom boxes and 80s fashion styles — to flow with the Beat Street theme,” he explained. “My art is very direct and mentally interactive. I hope people will enjoy it and love coming back to it.”
The restaurant has three distinct spaces: an opulent 15-seat bar where guests can sip locally brewed craft beers, international wines and artisan craft cocktails utilizing regionally-sourced spirits such as Dad’s Hat PA Rye, Bluecoat Gin and Lazy Eye vodka; a sexy lounge area with a grand piano is center stage, where guests can relax on teal and dark gray oversized mid-century style tufted high back wing chairs while enjoying cocktails and nibbling on small bites; and the dining room which features an elevated platform with banquettes and flooring that uses 100-year-old planks from the building’s original wood. Unique details such as suede-clad light halos and table tops outlined by antique gilt gold frames round out the eclectic décor. There will also be outdoor seating that wraps around the entirety of the expansive glass enclosed building.
Brunner has tapped award-winning chef Darryl Harmon, who is the culinary talent and a consulting chef behind several NYC restaurant groups, to create what Harmon refers to as a menu ‘showcasing elevated street food.’ Prior to working in New York over the past decade, Harmon also served as Executive Chef at the legendary Water Works Restaurant in Philadelphia, and has cooked for numerous celebrities, professional athletes and heads of state. “I’m excited to get real funky with the menu and seriously express myself,” he said. The 40-year-old chef says “he’s excited to see guests’ reactions to the Beat Street menu.” For example, Harmon took falafel and waffles, two common food truck items, merged them into one dish and put his personal spin on it. What he conceived has been named the Rocka Falafel Waffle. “Everyone offers falafel in and around New York. I took a house made falafel mix, pressed it in a waffle iron to get that crispness, added mint frozen yogurt, Harissa infused syrup, Raita and micro borage for a sweet and savory treat.”
Lunchbox and Cafeteria Tray Frito Nachos are whimsical interpretations of Harmon’s childhood favorites, which will certainly ensure a trip down memory lane for many diners. But the unexpectedness of the presentation is the show stopper. Harmon’s Sloppy Joe, a school lunch staple, arrives wrapped in wax paper and tucked inside a custom designed lunchbox filled with sour cream & onion kettle chips, a house-cured pickle and a liquid nitrogen-powered root beer float. “Each lunchbox is decorated with a different graffiti design,” said Harmon. “Some diners might relive a time when they opened up their school lunchbox and found happiness in a delicious treat from mom or dad, which is a priceless memory.” The Cafeteria Tray Frito Nachos might recoup additional childhood food memories: Fritos are adorned with chili con queso, smoked local corn, Jersey vine ripe tomatoes, jalapeño and spicy avocado mousse. “It will be quite the surprise when that extra large bag of Fritos arrives at the table!” laughed Harmon.
Harmon, who grew up in the farmlands of Cumberland County in South Jersey also wanted to incorporate his Native American heritage (he’s part Lenape Indian) and Jersey roots into the menu. In his Native Bison Tostadas, the base for the tostada is Native American fry bread (golden brown discs of deep-fried dough), topped with seared bison meat, smashed black bean pudding (popular in traditional Native American cuisine), Gem lettuce, Jersey heirloom tomatoes, Cotija snow cheese and lime-infused crema. “This is the ‘original’ American food and we’re the only place to offer something like this in the region. Once our guests taste it, it will change their paradigm regarding what one calls ‘Jersey cuisine,’” he said. Other menu highlights include a Reverse Seared Tomahawk Steak (38 oz. rib eye served standing up, speckled with charcoal dust and pierced with a stone tomahawk) and Sous Vide Lobster Mac & Cheez-it — a sous vide-cooked 2lb. lobster served in a skillet with smoked paprika foam. “The mac & cheese has Cheez-its sprinkled on top, and the empty Cheez-it bag is the serving vessel for the dish. The entrée is rolled out on an ice cream street cart. Serving it will be quite a show.” Harmon said the menu will be divided into three sections: Lil Bites, S’medium (“a reference to back in the day when many pants were labeled small-medium”) and Biggie Bites (a nod to the late beloved rapper Biggie Smalls). Menu prices range from $10 to $60. While they won’t be doing any breakdancing, the servers will be wearing Adidas track pants, Beat Street logo t-shirts, and a variety of hats from the period. The menu design presents a collage of boom boxes reminiscent of the bygone era.
The person charged with concept development, entertainment and setting the vibe for Beat Street is KC Macias, who is known for staging elaborate international events and parties from Mexico to Miami, LA and Las Vegas. As head of Appanage Hospitality Group, Macias has orchestrated exclusive experiences at the Gansevoort, for Super Bowl XLVIII and has worked with countless entertainers including Kevin Hart, Jay Z, Sean Paul, Pitbull, The Roots, Busta Rhymes and a host of celebrity DJs. His vision is to bring eclectic, engaging live music to life inside Beat Street, encompassing all genres from rap to jazz to bluegrass and Cuban salsa. “I’m talking about raw, street music, including salsa you would hear in the streets of Havana, and jazz that you’d hear off of Bourbon Street” he explained. At the same time, we want to make Beat Street welcoming and comfortable, like you’re in your living room being entertained, but in a cool way. That’s why we have the funky furniture and art. Instead of a chef’s table, Macias, who’s collaborated with famous DJs such as Samantha Bronson and the late DJ AM, came up with a "DJ's table" in the dining area that seats six. Music lovers will be seated up on the platform next to the DJ booth just inches away from the musical action to observe the mix master of the evening spinning and scratching on the turntable. Macias said each night of the week will feature a different style of music: Tuesday-jazz; Wednesday-retro funk and classic hip hop; Thursday-Cuban salsa; Friday-Prince and classic 90s; and Saturday-Brazilian/Ibiza/house.
“With Beat Street, Darryl and KC have tapped Transmission’s spirit, bringing the establishment to maturity,” mused Brunner. “I am beyond excited! The original sense of decadence that Transmission exuded is now complimented by seriously delicious, ultra-creative menu offerings and a salute to the culture that has extensively influenced today’s music, fashions and lifestyle. There is absolutely no place like it.”
Beat Street at Transmission will launch with two events, which will benefit local non-profits. On Wednesday, June 14th a stand-up cocktail party will feature several live music acts, passed hors d’oeuvres and open bar during a “Sneak Peak Open House” benefit for Big Brothers Big Sisters. The restaurant officially opens to the public on Thursday, June 22nd with a “Pay What You Want” fundraiser with all proceeds from the evening benefitting The Sharing Place Food Pantry at St. Paul's Lutheran Church.
Beat Street will be open Tuesday through Saturday from 5 to 11 p.m. for Happy Hour, dinner and live entertainment. The restaurant, bar and lounge is located at 150 Bay Street, Jersey City, NJ. To learn more, visit http://www.beatstreetjerseycity.com/.
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Peter Breslow Consulting & Public Relations